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Initial Recation: Hjalmarsson and Saad/Panarin trades 

The host city for this year’s NHL Entry Draft, Chicago, made a gigantic splash early on in the day. 

Shortly after the Blackhawks were eliminated from the playoffs, general manager Stan Bowman promised change. Clearly unhappy with being swept out in the first round, change is exactly what Stan Bowman brought. 

The first move he made was trading defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson to Arizona in exchange for defenseman Connor Murphy and forward Laurent Dauphin. Although initially believed to be a salary cap move, the Blackhawks wound up only saving approximately $300,000. 

Trading Hjalmarsson was surely a difficult endeavor for Bowman. The Swede has been one of the most underrated defensemen in the league for quite some time now. 

Connor Murphy is a formidable NHL player but he is not at the caliber of Hjalmarsson, at least not yet. To be fair, Murphy is younger and carries more of a certainty with his cost (signed for five more years at $3.85 million). Hjalmarsson only has two more seasons left on his current deal before he hits unrestricted free agency. 

Dauphin, once considered a top prospect, has fallen off a bit, but he still holds the capability of being an NHL regular. Whether he plays in Chicago or Rockford next season remains to be seen. 

However, with no disrespect towards Murphy or Dauphin, this is a great trade for Arizona. Hjalmarsson will serve as a good mentor and experienced winner on a young Coyotes squad. Plus, obviously, he is a fantastic defender. 

The Blackhawks were not done yet though. A few moments later, rumblings from Elliott Friedman indicated a swap involving Brandon Saad and Artemi Panarin was in the air. With a few extra moving parts, the deal did eventually go through. 

The final result was Columbus getting Artemi Panarin and Tyler Motte and Chicago getting Brandon Saad (back) and Anton Forsberg. Low picks were also swapped. 

It is hard to get a read on this trade. Panarin and Kane had chemistry, but you could put almost anyone on Kane’s line and they will click given Kane’s skill set. 

The overarching theme here, I believe, is that the Hawks were looking for someone to play with Jonathan Toews. He and Saad were dominant in the few years they were together. After consecutive disappointing years by Toews, maybe this will give him the boost he needs. 

As for Panarin, he was just set to begin a new deal with Chicago. He is set to earn $6 million for the next two years before hitting unrestricted free agency. 

This is a trade that will be looked at in hindsight after seeing how Saad and Panarin perform on their (technically) new teams. 

As for the other pieces, Motte will likely slot in the bottom six for Columbus. Forsberg will have the chance to compete for a backup spot in Chicago. 

Stay tuned for more draft coverage. 

Kevin, @TheNHLFiles

Final 2017 NHL Mock Draft (June 2017) 

This is the final edition (and subsequently the third edition) of the 2017 NHL mock drafts on this site. Due to travel, I do not have time to put an explanation behind these picks. But I do have a few notes first:

For one, I believe that the Devils are one of the few teams that Nolan Patrick fits better on than Nico Hischier. However, I think the Devils will go Hischier. Still, neither is a poor choice. 

Furthermore, this draft has gotten the reputation of being a weak draft. It certainly does not have a “generational player” like Connor McDavid or Auston Matthews at the top, but it is still solid through and through. There is leeway for players to slide and rise, but the stock of the draft is still impressive. It is not a throwaway, although some fans are treating it like that. 

Lastly, we could see a few trades involving picks on draft day. Dallas’ third pick and Vegas’ picks are key pieces that could be moved, with the former being more likely than the latter. The movement of picks will significantly affect the draft as many players have the capability to jump in the rankings. 

With that being said, here is my final NHL mock draft: 

1. New Jersey: Nico Hischier 

2. Philadelphia: Nolan Patrick

3. Dallas: Mirco Heiskanen 

4. Colorado: Cale Makar 

5. Vancouver: Cody Glass 

6. Vegas: Gabriel Vilardi 

7. Arizona: Elias Pettersson 

8. Buffalo: Cal Foote 

9. Detroit: Casey Mittlestadt 

10. Florida: Michael Rasmussen 

11. Los Angeles: Owen Tippett

12. Carolina: Nick Suzuki 

13. Vegas (via WPG): Martin Necas 

14. Tampa Bay: Timothy Liljegren  

15. Vegas (via NYI): Jusso Valimaki 

16. Calgary: Eeli Tolvanen 

17. Toronto: Uhro Vaakaninen

18. Boston: Nicolas Hague 

19. San Jose: Kailer Yamamoto 

20. St. Louis: Shane Bowers 

21. NY Rangers: Klim Kostin

22. Edmonton: Lias Andersson 

23. Arizona (via MIN): Erik Brannstrom 

24. Winnipeg (via VGK via CBJ): Kristian Vesalainen

25. Montreal: Ryan Poehling 

26. Chicago: Robert Thomas 

27. St. Louis (via WSH): Jason Robertson

28. Ottawa: Jonah Gadjovich 

29. Dallas (via ANA): Pierre-Oliver Joseph 

30. Nashville: Isaac Racliffe 

31. Pittsburgh: Maxime Comtois 

See you tomorrow for draft day. 

Kevin, @TheNHLFiles

Initial Recation: Eberle, van Riemsdyk, and Schlemko trades 

The first dominos of the trade market fell on Thursday afternoon, with a trio of trades being completed. 

The first was Jordan Eberle to New York for Ryan Strome. The second and third were both Vegas dealing defensemen to the Eastern Conference, as Trevor van Riemsdyk and David Schlemko went to Carolina and Montreal respectively. 

My initial reaction to these deals is mixed. But, we’ll take it one by one. 

For the Oilers and Islanders, the logic behind the deal is obvious. Edmonton wanted to shed salary either for free agency or to re-sign Kris Russell. Trading Eberle for Strome saves them $3.5 million on the cap for next season. 

As for the Islanders, this is a win-now move. Strome is under a .50 points-per-game pace for his career. Eberle, on the contrary, is nearly at .75 points-per-game for his career. Eberle and Tavares also go back almost a decade in terms of their relationship. Both player for Team Canada’s World Juniors team in the late 2000s. 

The logic behind the deal is evident, but the Islanders are the winners on the surface. They are getting the more established and more consistent player. However, what the Oilers will do with the added cap space remains to be seen. 

As for the van Riemsdyk to Carolina trade, it seems fair for both sides. van Riemsdyk will get a chance to thrive in a larger role in Carolina, whereas Vegas gets a second round pick back for someone that they acquired for nothing. 

The deal just further exemplifies how many draft picks Vegas is stockpiling. In the first two rounds this year, they now have three first round picks and three second round picks. It is quite the head start for the league’s 31st franchise. 

Lastly, the Schlemko deal is a great one for Montreal. Giving up just a fifth round pick for him is a steal. 

Schlemko has three more years left on his deal at $2.1 million per. He is a fantastic skater, and, in fact, his skating is what made him so successful in San Jose last season. 

Schlemko will be able to slot in anywhere between the #4 and #6 role in Montreal. He is able to play in all situations and would be a nice replacement (in a sense) for when Andrei Markov departs. 

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Expect many more moves to come in the next few days. 

-Kevin, @TheNHLFiles

One player from each NHL team that could be traded before the Vegas expansion draft 

The biggest weeks of the NHL season, apart from the Stanley Cup Playoffs, are upon us. 

This time of year is always busy due to the impending entry draft and free agency. However, the expansion draft presents general managers with a whole new entity to deal with this time around. 

Within these next 18 days, an extraordinary number of players will be moved. Whether it be to improve teams or to ensure players are not lost to the Vegas Golden Knights for nothing, there will be a tremendous amount of transactions made and a lot more chatter to go along with them. 

Here are 30 players from the 30 teams, excluding Vegas of course, that could be moved in his hectic time period. Some of these are reasonable speculation, whereas others are sourced. 

Anaheim Ducks: Sami Vatanen

As everyone knows by this point, the Ducks have an influx of defensemen heading into the expansion draft. Vatanen being expendable stems from the fact that Fowler, Manson, and Lindholm are currently viewed as more valuable by the Ducks. Vatanen has the ability to play a strong two-way game and would be a welcomed addition to the top-four of almost every team in the league. The Leafs seem like an obvious destination, however Tampa Bay and Buffalo are also possibilities. 

Arizona Coyotes: Anthony Duclair

Duclair split time between the NHL and AHL last season and his current standing within the Coyotes organization is unknown. Although he has not tapped in to his natural scoring ability lately, Duclair still possesses the ability to be a game-changer in someone’s middle-six. The cost will not be cheap, though. 

Boston Bruins: Ryan Spooner

The Bruins have had Spooner’s name in the trade mill for seemingly two seasons now. Spooner has not found his stride in Boston, partially due to their incredible center depth. He is not going to get the rightful chance he deserves in his natural position while the team has Bergeron, Krejci, and Backes. According to Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News, the Canucks have expressed interest in Spooner. 

Buffalo Sabres: Evander Kane

Just over two years after acquiring him in a massive trade, the Buffalo Sabres appear ready to move on from Evander Kane. The new regime, headed by general manager Jason Botterill, is looking to wipe the slate clean in Buffalo. Kane has the skills to be a 30 goal scorer in the league, but his off-ice attitude remains an issue. It is largely overblown by the media, but there still may be something there. 

Calgary Flames: Sam Bennett 

Bennett has popped up in the rumor mill recently, although he has not requested a trade. The Flames are likely listening on him, but a move being made seems unlikely at this point. The return would have to be astronomical to pry the former top-five pick from Brad Treliving. It is possible though. Elliott Friedman mentioned the Ducks as a destination. 

Carolina Hurricanes: Eddie Lack

Eddie Lack was not a favorite of head coach Bill Peters last season and likely will not be returning to the NHL roster next year. Scott Darling is the main man in Carolina now, and due to seniority and partially play, Cam Ward is slated to be the backup. Lack can still be a solid backup in the league, but things just have not worked out in Carolina. I wonder if Edmonton would take a crack with him behind Cam Talbot. 

Chicago Blackhawks: Niklas Hjalmarsson

Although the initial consensus was that Brent Seabrook may be moved out, Blackhawks beat writer Mark Lazarus clarified and stated that Hjalmarsson was much more likely. The Swede has quietly transformed into an amazing defensemen in Chicago, but he has been overshadowed by the likes of Duncan Keith and the aforementioned Seabrook. Whichever team lands him will be very lucky. The same teams interested in Vatanen will probably be in on Hjalmarsson, although they are opposite hands. 

Colorado Avalanche: Matt Duchene

This is a biggie. Duchene was rumored to be on the move at this year’s trade deadline and the rumblings have only gotten bigger since. Bob McKenzie even proclaimed that he was the most likely player to be moved this offseason. Duchene will fetch a quality, young defenseman plus a first round pick at minimum. Joe Sakic cannot afford to take anything less for his superstar (although struggling) center. 

Columbus Blue Jackets: David Clarkson

Clarkson is only included on this list because a trade involving him going to Vegas is essentially guaranteed to happen. In return for Vegas selecting Clarkson in the draft, the Blue Jackets will be sending at least a first round pick plus a prospect to Vegas. I suspect that prospect will be Oliver Bjorkstrand. The initial Clarkson report came from Elliott Friedman. 

Dallas Stars: Stephen Johns

Jim Nill’s most prized asset this summer is his third overall pick. He will use that to either move down in the draft and get a defenseman or trade it for an NHL ready defenseman. Other than that, it’s hard to see Dallas moving anyone out. In terms o players they might lose in the expansion draft, Stephen Johns and Jamie Oleksiak head the list. So one of them could theoretically be moved beforehand. 

Detroit Red Wings: Riley Sheahan

Although he did score a goal (actually, two goals) in the final game of the season, it is unclear what Sheahan’s future in Detroit is. Detroit has a number of other young players to protect, so Sheahan has a good chance of winding up in Vegas next season. Trading him beforehand may land Ken Holland a pick or two instead of losing him for naught. 

Edmonton Oilers: Jordan Eberle 

With three dynamic presences that can play center, Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the Oilers can afford to sacrifice a few wingers. Eberle carries a large cap hit ($6 million) and the money could be used to solidify the back-end for Edmonton or just to keep handy. Eberle has reportedly been of high interest, so it appears his days in Edmonton are finished. John Shannon of Sportsnet is reporting that as many as six teams are highly interested. 

Florida Panthers: Alex Petrovic

When the Panthers asked Keith Yandle to waive his no-movement clause (reported by Elliott Friedman), it could have been so they could keep Alex Petrovic instead. The big, bruising, and rising defender has proved his worth in Florida. He would be a nice pickup for Vegas if they choose to go that route. However, if Florida did look at trading him, the return may not be worthwhile and they may just take the risk of losing him for nothing instead. 

Los Angeles Kings: Brayden McNabb

With Doughty, Martinez, and Muzzin on the point, it is hard to see where McNabb fits in in Los Angeles’ protection plans. The defender has shined brightly since being acquired from Buffalo. At 26-years-old, plenty of teams would be interested. However, to be fair, the Kings could wind up holding onto McNabb by protecting four forwards and four defensemen. 

Minnesota Wild: Matt Dumba 

The Wild are one of those teams with a glut of talent that could be taken by Vegas in a week. They have too many forwards to not use the 7-3-1 protection method. Furthermore, Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon have priority on defense. It also appears that Chuck Fletcher has chosen Jonas Brodin over Matt Dumba, so Dumba is likely to be moved. He will fetch a nice return, but the player will (ideally) need to be expansion exempt or it will need to be for picks. 

Montreal Canadiens: Alex Galchenyuk 

This one has picked up a lot of teams in the past 24 hours. It seems extremely likely that Galchenyuk, who is not viewed as a center in Montreal’s eyes, will be moved. Nathan Beaulieu is equally as likely to go. 

Nashville Predators: James Neal

Recently, Pierre Lebrun speculated that James Neal may be left exposed for the expansion draft. If that is true, he becomes a prime target to be taken and flipped by Vegas. David Poile, if he plans on exposing Neal, should jump on the opportunity to trade Neal to the East. It is not an ideal situation, but Nashville’s stellar defensive core has caused this. 

New Jersey Devils: Jacob Josefson

Honestly, there are not really any rumblings coming from the Devils. Josefson could look to obtain a larger role in another organization. Other than that, the Devils’ biggest piece to move is the #1 overall pick. They would be using it to move down, but it is intriguing nonetheless. 

New York Islanders: Calvin de Haan 

The Islanders are looking to move out a defenseman for a top-six forward, and currently it is a coin-flip between Calvin de Haan and Travis Hamonic. Based on the fact that de Haan is younger and that Garth Snow declined a trade that would have sent Hamonic to Edmonton last offseason for Taylor Hall, it seems more likely that de Haan is moved out. 

New York Rangers: Antti Raanta 

Since coming over from Chicago, Antti Raanta has been nothing short of spectacular behind Henrik Lundqvist. Due to this, he may be selected by Vegas to be their 1A goalie for the upcoming season (or to get flipped). NBC’s Pro Hockey Talk reported that the Flames and Jets have contacted the Rangers about Raanta. The Rangers could definitely get a package similar to what they got for Cam Talbot, a couple of mid-round picks, back for him. 

Ottawa Senators: Dion Phaneuf 

The Dion Phaneuf saga over the past few days has been interesting to watch. Bob McKenzie reported that Phaneuf declined to waive his no-movement clause before the expansion draft. Then, today, Darren Dreger furthered that by stating that a few teams had interest in trading for Phaneuf. It is an unfortunate situation for an oft-criticized player who seemed to find a home in Ottawa. Dreger also speculated that Ottawa would be taking a contract back in the deal. 

Philadelphia Flyers: Nick Cousins 

The Flyers are definitely going to be picking at #2 this season, so the attention turns to the immediate roster at hand. Ron Hextall would like to see internal growth and is not likely to be moving out any core players, but a few depth guys could be shuffled. Nick Cousins is a young center who could use a larger role somewhere else. With Giroux, Filppula, Konecny, and one of Patrick of Hischier on the roster, Cousins will not be getting a fair shake in his natural position in Philadelphia. 

Pittsburgh Penguins: Marc-Andre Fleury 

Coming off back-to-back Stanley Cups, the Penguins are not going to want to change up much. Expect them to remain similar, however Fleury will be off the roster. It seems more likely at this point that he will wind up in Vegas, but a trade beforehand by Pittsburgh is not out of the question. 

San Jose Sharks: Mirco Mueller 

Mueller was a top pick for the Sharks back in 2013, but he has had a troubling NHL career since. To this date, he has only appeared in 54 career games. A change of scenery would benefit both parties. 

St. Louis Blues: Jori Lehtera

After an impressive first season with St. Louis, Lehtera has fallen off a cliff as of late. With a large cap hit, it would be wise for Doug Armstrong to look for a suitor for the Finland native. It may be a fruitless effort, though. 

Tampa Bay Lightning: Alex Killorn 

Tampa Bay needs to choose between Alex Killorn and Vlad Namestnikov before the expansion draft takes place. Due to age, Namestnikov seems more likely, but it could go either way. Killorn is on a new, long-term deal and would be a viable option in almost all middle-sixes in the league. 

Toronto Maple Leafs: Connor Brown 

Although a home-grown talent, the Leafs may look to move on from Connor Brown. This deal only happens if they get a top-four defender in return, though. Elliott Friedman brought up a good point in one of his 30 Thoughts: Brown was drafted by Dave Nonis when he was general manager of the Leafs. Nonis now has a front office role in Anaheim. There could be a perfect fit. 

Vancouver Canucks: Chris Tanev

Tanev’s name has surfaced in trade rumors for quite some time now. He is a dynamic defenseman on a solid contract, so the price is rightfully high. It is plausible that Jim Benning is shopping Tanev, however it will take a deal to believe it. 

Washington Capitals: Nate Schmidt

With a few prominent defensemen to protect, the Capitals cannot afford to hold onto Nate Schmidt ahead of the expansion draft. His speed and offensive talents should make him coveted around the league. He may even be immediately ready to step into a top-four role on another team. His situation, although not cap related, reminds me a lot of when Nick Leddy went from Chicago to New York a few years ago. 

Winnipeg Jets: Connor Hellebuyck

The Jets are trying to acquire a bonafide starting goalie, so I am curious as to whether or not they will move Hellebuyck. This one is pure speculation. If they can acquire another goalie, using Hellebuyck to improve another part of their team would be smart. 

Stay tuned for more news and analysis on our Twitter feed. 

Kevin, @TheNHLFiles

Predicting Protected Lists: Winnipeg Jets 

The Winnipeg Jets are in a fairly good spot in regards to the expansion draft. They are only slated to lose a depth player or (spoiler) an injury-ridden Tyler Myers to Vegas. 

Up front, the Jets will absolutely be protecting Mark Scheifele, Bryan Little, Blake Wheeler, and Mathieu Perreault. 

After that, a trio of middle-six, younger players are expected to be protected. They are Adam Lowry, Marko Dano, and Joel Armia. 

That is all there is for forwards. The most likely to be taken by Vegas out of the exposed forwards are Andrew Copp and Scott Komaschuk. Although valuable pieces, losing either of these players would not be crushing to the Jets. 

On defense, the Jets have two players with no-movement clauses in Dustin Byfuglien and Tobias Enstrom. The Jets are not expected to ask either to waive. 

The choice then becomes between Jacob Trouba and Tyler Myers. Myers, as previously mentioned, has struggled with injuries in the past few years and also has been the inferior player to Trouba. So, choosing Trouba to protect is easy.

The Jets gave up a lot in the Tyler Myers-Evander Kane deal a few years ago, but if Vegas decides to take Myers, it is not the end of the world. The defenseman they sent to Buffalo in that deal, Zach Bogosian, is struggling more than Myers is. 

In goal, Connor Hellebuyck is currently projected to be protected. However, the Jets could acquire a goalie, such as Marc-Andre Fleury or Antti Raanta, to protect instead. 

The Winnipeg Jets protected list could look like this in the end: 

Forwards: Mark Scheifele, Bryan Little, Blake Wheeler, Mathieu Perreault, Adam Lowry, Marko Dano, Joel Armia

Defense: Dustin Byfuglien, Tobias Enstrom, Jacob Trouba

Goalie: Connor Hellebuyck OR acquired player

——

Thank you all for following along with the “Predicting Protected Lists” series. It will be interesting to see how close this is to the actual protected list submitted by the teams. All previous teams can be found on the site. A link to a “moment” on Twitter with all the articles will also be posted. 

Stay tuned for more articles in the next week. 

Kevin, @TheNHLFiles

Predicting Protected Lists: Washington Capitals 

Due to the fact that they have a large number of unrestricted free agents on the team, the Washington Capitals do not face many problems heading into the expansion draft. However, one place they where do have to make a quick decision is in goal. 

At forward, six of the seven spots are essentially locked in. 

Alex Ovechkin, Nick Backstrom, Marcus Johansson, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Tom Wilson, and Andre Burakovsky will all be protected. 

After that bunch, the last spot comes down to three players, those being Jay Beagle, Brett Connolly, and Lars Eller. 

In terms of age and production, the trio looks like this — 

Beagle: 31-years-old, 31 points in 81 games

Connolly: 25-years-old, 23 points in 66 games 

Eller: 28-years-old, 25 points in 81 games

Beagle’s numbers look more impressive, however, based solely on deployment and how much they forked over for him last offseason, the Capitals are likely to protect Lars Eller. 

On defense, John Carlson and Matt Niskanen are going to be protected. 

Albeit rumors have been swirling recently about a jump to the KHL, the Capitals are likely to protect Dmitry Orlov on defense as well. A case could be made for Nate Schmidt over Orlov, but head coach Barry Trotz clearly prefers the Russian. 

Braden Holtby will be protected in goal. This leaves Philipp Grubauer to be taken by Vegas. The Golden Knights are looking to be young in net, and Grubauer possesses the ability to transform into a number one goalie. Grubauer has the chance to be the man in Vegas, which is an opportunity he will never get in Washington. 

In total, the Washington Capitals probable protection list looks as so:

Forwards: Alex Ovechkin, Nick Backstrom, Marcus Johansson, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Tom Wilson, Andre Burakovsky, Lars Eller

Defense: John Carlson, Matt Niskanen, Dmitry Orlov

Goalie: Braden Holtby 

Unless they trade him in the upcoming days, the aforementioned Grubauer is likely to go to Vegas in the expansion draft. 

Next team: Winnipeg Jets 

Kevin, @TheNHLFiles

Predicting Protected Lists: Vancouver Canucks 

The Vancouver Canucks’ protected list is, on the surface, seemingly easy to protect. However, GM Jim Benning could go off the board and protect one or two role players over a more skilled guy. 

Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, and Loui Eriksson all have no-movement clauses. Eriksson was disappointing in his first season in Vancouver, however there is zero chance he is asked to waive. 

Brandon Sutter, a key cog in Vancouver’s center core, also requires protection. That is not an issue either. 

The rest of Vancouver’s forward slots can be filled up by younger players. 

Bo Horvat is a guarantee. For the last two spots, Markus Granlund and Sven Baertschi are good guesses. 

On defense, Chris Tanev is the only sure-fire pick to be protected. 

The Canucks, though, do not have many other quality defensemen that could be selected by Vegas. Therefore, protecting Alex Edler and Erik Gudbranson is not an issue. 

In net, Jacob Markstrom will be protected as Ryan Miller is an unrestricted free agent. 

In total, Vancouver’s protection list is likely this:

Forwards: Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, Loui Eriksson, Brandon Sutter, Bo Horvat, Markus Granlund, Sven Baertschi

Defense: Chris Tanev, Alex Edler, Erik Gudbranson

Goalie: Jacob Markstrom

For players that could be taken by Vegas, fringe-NHL guys such as Reid Boucher, Brendan Gaunce, Andrew Pedan, and Michael Chaput are options. 

There is also a chance that Chris Tanev is traded this offseason. But, it remains likely that the trade happens (if it happens at all) after the expansion draft. 

Next team: Washington Capitals

Kevin, @TheNHLFiles

Predicting Protected Lists: Toronto Maple Leafs 

Due to many of their young superstars, including Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander, being exempt, the Maple Leafs are in a fantastic spot heading into the expansion draft. They are not slated to lose anyone of significance, and they could even use this opportunity to trade for a top-four defenseman from another team that would have otherwise been exposed. 

At forward, Nazem Kadri, James van Riemsdyk, and Connor Brown are locks to be protected. Due to the nature of their roster, Tyler Bozak and Leo Komarov can go on that list as well.

That leaves two spots remaining with Brendan Leipsic, Matt Martin, Kerby Rychel, Josh Leivo, and Seth Griffith to choose from. 

Matt Martin is a great role player and mentor to the youth on Toronto’s roster, however it would be wise for the Leafs to leave him exposed. 

Furthermore, Josh Leivo and Seth Griffith are solid depth scorers, but they are nothing Toronto should be sweating over. 

That leaves the two spots to go to Brendan Leipsic and Kerby Rychel. Both have the potential to become top-nine players on Toronto’s roster in the future. 

Martin, Leivo, and Griffith all could wind up in Vegas. The latter two are more likely. 

On defense, Morgan Rielly, Jake Gardiner, and Connor Carrick will most likely be getting the protection spots. 

Of the exposed defensemen, Martin Marincin has the highest chance of winding up in Vegas. 

In goal, Freddie Andersen is undoubtedly the guy to protect. 

In total, the Toronto Maple Leafs could have a protection list that looks like this:

Forwards: Nazem Kadri, James van Riemsdyk, Connor Brown, Tyler Bozak, Leo Komarov, Brendan Leipsic, Kerby Rychel

Defense: Morgan Rielly, Jake Gardiner, Connor Carrick

Goalie: Freddie Andersen

Next team: Vancouver Canucks

Kevin, @TheNHLFiles

Predicting Protected Lists: Tampa Bay Lightning 

The Tampa Bay Lightning will have to make a fairly large decision up front before the expansion draft, however Steve Yzerman’s situation is not as dire as it is made out to be. 

According to a report, Ryan Callahan is not expected to be asked to waive his no-movement clause. That makes him an obvious shoe-in to be protected. 

Other guarantees to be protected at forward are Steven Stamkos, Ondrej Palat, Nikita Kucherov, and Tyler Johnson. 

There have been rumblings that Jonathan Drouin could be traded before the expansion draft. However, nothing has surfaced yet and he will be on Tampa Bay’s protection list as of now. 

That leaves one spot remaining and it could go to either Vlad Namestnikov or Alex Killorn. 

Namestnikov, 24, had 28 points in 74 games last season. He was a first round pick by Tampa Bay in 2011. 

As for Killorn, the 27-year-old had 36 points in 81 games last season. 

This choice is a coin flip to some people, however I believe that Alex Killorn will be the last protected forward for Tampa Bay. 

Regardless of who is protected, though, the other player immediately becomes a top candidate to go to Vegas for next season. 

On defense, Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman are guarantees to be protected. 

After that, Slater Koekkoek is next in line. Although he is not as experienced as other options, he holds the potential to become a solid, top-four defender in the league. He is actually closer to that role than some people may think. 

The Tampa Bay Lightning’s protection list could look like this:

Forwards: Steven Stamkos, Ryan Callahan, Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, Jonathan Drouin, Alex Killorn

Defense: Victor Hedman, Anton Stralman, Slater Koekkoek

Goalie: Andrei Vasilevskiy

The Lightnig’s list could change based solely on the fact that Drouin or Johnson could be moved in a trade. But as of now, this is where it stands. 

Next team: Toronto Maple Leafs

Kevin, @TheNHLFiles 

Predicting Protected Lists: St. Louis Blues 

The St. Louis Blues are a pretty simple team when it comes to the expansion draft. They will have no problems reaching the exposure requirements, and the players they will protect are, for the most part, easy to predict. 

Up front, Vladimir Tarasenko, Alexander Steen, and Jaden Schwartz will absolutely be protected. These three drive the offense for St. Louis and Doug Armstrong would be out of his mind to let any of them go. 

After them, Paul Stastny, Patrick Berglund, and Vlad Sobotka are next in line. 

Sobotka came back to the NHL for the playoffs and signed a three-year “extension” with St. Louis. He made an immediate impact on the team and will take up a top-nine role next season. 

Stastny and Berglund are two guys that struggled in 2015-2016 but bounced back this season. Stastny has had injury issues, but St. Louis should protect him regardless. 

The last protection spot at forward can go to David Perron. It could be argued that Jori Lehtera or Nail Yakupov could get it, but Perron is simply better and more valuable. 

On defense, it is basically a lock that Alex Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester, and Joel Edmundson will be protected. 

In net, the Blues committed long term to Jake Allen and he will be protected. 

The St. Louis Blues probable protection list: 

Forwards: Vladimir Tarasenko, Alexander Steen, Jaden Schwartz, Paul Stastny, Patrik Berglund, Vlad Sobotka, David Perrson

Defense: Alex Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester, Joel Edmundson

Goalie: Jake Allen

Vegas could take Yakupov, Jaskin, or another depth forward from the Blues. 

Next team: Tampa Bay Lightning

Kevin, @TheNHLFiles

Predicting Protected Lists: San Jose Sharks 

Due to Joe Thornton and Patrick Marceau being unrestricted free agents this offseason, the Sharks would appear to be set up in a comfortable position regarding the expansion draft. However, due to exposure requirements, the situation is much more complicated than how it looks. 

The Sharks have five players they must protect. Three are forwards and two are defensemen. The forwards are Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, and Tomas Hertl, and the defensemen are Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic. 

This leaves the Sharks with room to protect either four more forwards and one more defenseman or one more forward and two more defensemen. 

Each team for the expansion draft is required to expose two forwards and one defenseman that meets a minimum games played and contract requirement. Out of the remaining players for the Sharks at forward, four players, Joel Ward, Mikkel Boedker, Jannik Hansen, and Melker Karlsson, meet that requirement. 

Therefore, should the Sharks protect seven forwards, they would have to leave two of the aforementioned players exposed. 

For instance, say they leave Hansen and Ward exposed out of that group. That would leave their protection list looking like Couture, Pavelski, Hertl, Boedker, Karlsson, Tierney (RFA), and who? The remaining options are essentially Barclay Goodrow, a restricted free agent, and a bunch of unrestricted free agents. 

To be fair, the Sharks could sign Michael Haley and use him to fulfill exposure requirements. But, if they were going to do that, you would think that they would have signed him already. 

So that makes me hypothesize: the Sharks might protect four defensemen instead if this is the case and risk losing one of Karlsson, Boedker, or Tierney. 

Instead of protecting a meaningless depth player, they can then protect Justin Braun AND Brendan Dillon along with Vlasic and Burns. 

This way may seem a bit unconventional, but it makes sense for the Sharks. 

In total, I predict the San Jose Sharks protection list will look like the following:

Forwards: Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, Tomas Hertl, and ONE OF Boedker/Tierney/Karlsson

Defense: Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Justin Braun, and Brendan Dillon 

Goalie: Martin Jones 

To be fair, the Sharks could bribe Vegas not to take one of their important players. Regardless, it will be interesting to see the route that Doug Wilson takes. 

Next team: St. Louis Blues

Kevin, @TheNHLFiles

Predicting Protected Lists: Pittsburgh Penguins 

The Pittsburgh Penguins, as everyone knows by now, have a huge decision to make in goal before the expansion draft. Marc-Andre Fleury has a no-movement clause and needs to be traded beforehand. Matt Murray is the future in the crease of Pittsburgh and that is not expected to change. 

We will get to goalies later, so starting up front, three Penguins have no-movement clauses. They are Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Phil Kessel. None of these are a problem, though, as none were going to be exposed anyways. 

The Penguins are highly likely to protect seven forwards and three defensemen, so that makes Patric Hornqvist and Bryan Rust obvious selections. 

After those five players, though, the field is mixed and the players getting the last two spots are unclear. 

Carl Hagelin, granted, seems like a safe bet. This is based only on the ideology that there are not many other players that could be protected. 

Unless the Penguins sign Chris Kunitz or Matt Cullen to an extension, both Tom Kuhnhackl and Scott Wilson will need to be exposed to meet the requirement. 

Nick Bonino is left off of this list because he is an unrestricted free agent as well. If he is re-signed before the expansion draft, which rightfully seems improbable, he will be protected. 

The last spot could perhaps go to Josh Archibald or Oskar Sundqvist. Neither are ideal options, but it is the only choice Jim Rutherford has. 

On defense, Kris Letang is the only sure-fire pick. However, it appears that the Penguins will want to protect Brian Dumoulin and Justin Schultz as well. 

Both Dumoulin and Schultz are pending restricted free agents. Although they play different styles, both players have been integral to Pittsburgh’s success this season and last. 

This scenario would leave Olli Maatta exposed. The first round pick from 2012 is not a bad player, however he has not progressed as well as the Penguins would have hoped. His skating is the most glaring issue in his game. 

As for goaltenders, the expectation is that Marc-Andre Fleury and his no-movement clause will be traded. This would allow for Matt Murray to be protected. 

Even if Fleury is not immediately traded, he will likely waive his no-movement clause for the team. He has been nothing but supportive over the past two years with him and Murray battling for the crease and he has been a team first guy for the Penguins for the entirety of his career. It will hurt the organization and fans to see Fleury go, but it is just what has to happen. 

In total, the Penguins protected list could look like this:

Forwards: Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Patric Hornqvist, Bryan Rust, Carl Hagelin, and Josh Archibald OR Oskar Sundqvist 

Defense: Kris Letang, Brian Dumoulin, and Justin Schultz 

Goalie: Matt Murray 

Olli Maatta seems like the most likely to go to Vegas in this case. If Maatta is protected, it becomes Schultz or Dumoulin. 

Next team: San Jose Sharks

Kevin, @TheNHLFiles